In 2021, we visited Galena twice, first for our annual girls trip, and second for the hiking weekend visiting Apple River Canyon and Mississippi Palisades. Both times, we discussed heading to Lake Le-Aqua-Na State Recreation Area to check out the scenery, but it was not until mid-August 2022 that we finally made it out.
The day we went was an overcast Sunday morning. We had originally planned to go that Saturday, but we ended up pushing it out a day because of rain. However, the showers from the day before managed to affect our hike anyway.
Lake Le-Aqua-Na is in Stephenson County, three miles north of the town of Lena. In fact, the name “Le-Aqua-Na” was the result of a contest sponsored by the Stephenson County Sportsman’s Club, and combines the name of the town and “aqua” for the lake.
There are six different hiking trails at this park, but we decided to go to the High Point trail, on the north end of the park. Normally we would have chosen a trail closer to the lake, however none of the trails go along the lake at all, and even if we did there was so much excess water from the day before that part of the road was closed from flooding.
The first section of trail was thru a very green forest, possibly made even greener from the rain. We expected it to be muddy, but this part of the trail was covered enough that it was still very solid.
After passing a small grove of dead pine trees, we got to the main part of the trail: a 3 mile loop path that is entirely grassy. The inside of the loop was tall, prairie-like grasses, while the outside was lined with trees.
We do not usually like walking on grass paths, because the grass will hide how uneven the ground is, and both of us are pretty clumsy. In fact, the only time either of us has fallen was from tripping on a hole that was covered by grass. However, the problem we had at Lake Le-Aqua-Na was that all the rain from the day before was clinging to the plants and not evaporating off. There was no mud at all, but the path was so soggy that our socks were soaked thru, and both of us were wearing waterproof shoes.
There were tons of wildflowers on this trail, and here the overcast sky made the colors seem even more vibrant. We also saw some fruit, that we later found out were walnuts. But the most exciting thing we saw was a group of five pheasants, running on the trail keeping ahead of us for about a mile of our hike.
Finishing up the trail, we felt like we would have been able to hike longer, if our socks hadn’t been so wet. Instead, we changed our shoes, and drove to one of the concession buildings to take in the lake before heading out.
Every time we’ve driven on Highway 20, we’ve passed Lena Brewing and said “We have to try that place at some point,” so we knew that this had to be our choice for Le-Aqua-Na. Located in a renovated feed mill, all beer is brewed onsite. The do not make food themselves, but we were able to order food with the bartender from the restaurant next door, and it was delivered straight to our table. I personally enjoyed my tasting of Strawberry SMASH; the flavor was exactly like crunch berries cereal. Among all the breweries we have visited, Lena Brewing was a standout.
We would recommend visiting this park, but not if there was rain the day before. We were both happy we had dry sandals to change into once we were done. Still, the lake is nice to go around, and the hike itself was not too difficult even with the wet, grassy trails.
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